Reflections on Historic Preservation, Part 2

This week’s readings presented a thorough explanation of the approaches and methods used in historic preservation. Although some of the statements throughout the readings seemed like common knowledge, Tyler did bring up some interesting points about the process of nominating and establishing a site on the National Register of Historic Places. I found Tyler’s presentation of the “criteria” that sites need to meet in order to be considered for preservation quite useful. While I had some idea about the conditions and parameters that sites need to meet in order to be considered historically significant, I appreciated the clear and direct categorization of these requirements. I can see now see how listing and describing such criteria would greatly facilitate the national register program in selecting sites for preservation. While I found Tyler’s explanation of these standards sufficient, I do wish that he would have spent more time elaborating on the concept of “minimum levels of significance” and provided examples (139). In many regards this comment was quite troubling. I understood this situation to mean that established pro-preservation communities are destined to lose places of historic significance simply because by their own actions, they have set the bar too high. On the opposite end of the spectrum, communities that did not have the foresight to save historic buildings are now more likely to preserve places of “limited” historic significance. It seems like pro-preservation communities are being punished for their own efforts to preserve historic sites. It also seems likely that communities that lack a precedent for preservation might save more buildings now, but what are the odds that those buildings will retain their historic significance, especially in light of the fact that people outside of the immediate vicinity simply might be unaware of the presence of such sites because of the community’s anti-preservation past.

 

I also found the concept of “dedesignation” quite fascinating. The idea of removing the historic designation from a site was not part of my limited knowledge or previous assumptions about preservation. With so much attention given to criteria needed for designation and the long, drawn out process of designation, I wish that Tyler would have spent more time discussing the methods and processes that must be followed to dedesignate. Although he did list and explain the reasons that a site might be considered for dedesignation, he gave but one throw away sentence about the process. Tyler wrote “Though rare, the Secretary of the Interior may find it necessary to remove the designation of NHL or National Register…if they lose too much of their historic integrity” (152). Is this the only way for a site to lose designation? And if so, is this the appropriate process considering the lengthy means of being designated in the first place?

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